Dracups emigrate to…the USA (#1)

This the third in a series of genealogical posts about how Dracups from England established themselves in other parts of the world during the Nineteenth Century.

Previous posts in the series have covered the arrival of Dracups in India and Canada. These were chronologically the earliest migrations, taking place in the late 1790s and late 1810s respectively.

The next phase of migration took place in the second half of the Nineteenth Century when several different Dracup families established themselves in America.

This first post about America deals with the earliest arrivals. The next will focus on a ‘second wave’ which took place a generation later, beginning in the late 1870s.

Please don’t hesitate to use the comments facility if you have information which adds to or amends the details supplied below.


Which Dracup was first on American soil?

I thought it would be relatively straightforward to determine who arrived first in America, not least because the 1900 US census reveals how long settlers have lived in the country.

But the answer seems shrouded in mystery, because I can find only one of the prime candidates in that census.

Here are my nominations:

First, those already featured in my post on migration to Canada. Robert Dracup arrived in Nova Scotia before 1818 and lived there with his family until the mid-1830s before relocating to Ontario.

It is possible that they would have touched on American soil during their journey from Granville Nova Scotia to Sidney, Hastings, Ontario. Since rail links had not yet been established the most likely route was via the St Lawrence River and Lake Ontario.

But Granville is directly across the Bay of Fundy from Maine, while Sidney sits just across the Lake from New York State. It is hard to believe that no Canadian Dracup had ventured in that direction before their cousins arrived from across the Atlantic. But I can find no records of border crossings from this time.


Postscript (May 2016): While researching the next part of this post I came across a record suggesting that Robert and his family were indeed first to America, by virtue of their journey between Nova Scotia and Ontario.

It appears I was right about the timing of their journey, but wrong about the route. The record below shows that Robert and Amelia, accompanied by their children Elizabeth, Mary, John, Thomas, William, Amelia Ann, Edmund and Caroline, arrived in New York City on 22 April 1834, on board a 52-ton schooner, William, based in Nova Scotia.


Canada addition Capture

Second, one such traveller from England – a mysterious ‘J Dracup’.

According to incoming passenger lists he arrived in New York on 18 April 1864 aboard a ship called Glasgow which had embarked from Liverpool and had also called at Queenstown, Ireland.

He was aged 35 (so born in 1828 or 1829), a farmer and apparently travelling alone.

I could not find an outgoing passenger list for this voyage, nor can I discover any trace of ‘J’ subsequently in America, so perhaps he was just visiting.

His arrival coincided with the later stages of the American Civil War. Two weeks later the Battle of the Wilderness took place in Virginia. Combined casualties and losses topped 28,000. This picture of the battle by Kurz and Allison was painted in 1887.




My English family tree reveals a handful of possible identities for ‘J’, but none of them are farmers:

  • John (dates unknown), the father of John Daniel Dracup (1869-1937) who features in the ‘second wave’ of immigrants. But John is described as ‘mechanic’ on Dan’s marriage record (he was deceased when this ceremony took place in 1888).
  • Jacob (b. 1832) brother of Zillah Dracup, who features prominently below. In 1851 he was an unmarried stuff piece finisher in Great Horton. I cannot find him in the 1861 census or any subsequent records.
  • John (b. 1829), a warp dresser married to Sarah and living in Shipley in 1861.
  • John (b. 1830), a white smith married to Emma and living in Great Horton in 1861.
  • John (b 1832), a turner in a machine shop married to Betty and also living in Great Horton in 1861.
  • Joseph (b. 1835), a blacksmith married to Emma, living in Gomersal, Yorkshire in 1861.

There is more information about the ship on which J Dracup travelled.

The Glasgow was built in that city in 1851, was 1,950 tons, 262 feet in length with a beam of 36 feet, a single screw (ten knots), iron hull, four masts and one funnel. There was accommodation for 60 first class, 100 second class and 700 third class passengers.

She was operated initially by the Glasgow and New York Shipping Company then taken over by the Inman Line in 1859. In 1855 she was chartered as a French transport ship during the Crimean War.

Glasgow was abandoned in July 1865 off Nantucket after a fire broke out in a hold containing cotton. All the passengers were rescued.

This picture is of the launch of the Glasgow.



My third and final nomination was not strictly a Dracup when she arrived, though she became so again while she was in the country, so I really must include her on that score. Her story is fascinating.

Zillah Dracup, a great-great-grandaughter of the Rev Nathaniel, was born in 1828 in Great Horton. Her parents were Nathan (1802-1871) and Betty Bottomley (1802-1878).

She is not to be confused with another Zillah Dracup (1830-1885), great grandaughter of the Rev Nathaniel, daughter of Simeon (1805-1879) and Hannah (1805-1869), who was also born in Great Horton, admitted to the South Yorkshire Lunatic Asylum in June 1879 and died there six years later.

Our Zillah married Henry Fieldhouse (b. 1824) in June 1847, at the age of 19. They had three children: Dracup (1851-?), Serena (1853-1928) and Frank (1858-1883) and lived in Ovenden, Halifax, Yorkshire.

At some point Zillah (and presumably Henry) became Mormons.

Missionaries were extremely active in England during this period. There were over 30,000 Mormons in Britain by 1850, as well as a further 7,500 who had already emigrated to the United States. Home numbers topped 50,000 by 1854. By 1877 half of the Mormons in Utah were of British origin.

On 30 April 1866 Zillah and her two younger children set sail from Liverpool on a ship called John Bright, three of 747 Mormon emigrants on board.

They arrived in New York on 6 June 1866, some two years after the mysterious ‘J. Dracup’.

This picture of Broadway dates from 1860.




The Mormon record supplies further detail:

‘The ship was built in 1854 by William H Webb at New York City, New York. Three voyages the full rigged John Bright of New York made with Mormon emigrants. The second voyage originated at Liverpool on 30 April 1866. Capt. W.L. Dawson was master of the ship. Aboard were some 747 Mormon emigrants led by Elder Collins M. Gillet, a returning missionary from England, who died at August crossing the plains west of Fort Kearney. He was assisted by Benjamin J. Stringham and Stephen W. Ally. Among the emigrants was a young boy, Brigham Henry Roberts, [who] was to become a prominent writer and leader in the LDS church. During a pleasant passage of 37 days there were no deaths and only one storm. Three births and one marriage were recorded.’

John Bright was 1,444 tons, 192 feet long, built in New York City in 1854. It undertook three Mormon emigrant voyages, in 1858, 1866 and 1868 respectively, but was wrecked off Brazil in 1874.

On the incoming passenger list Zillah’s age is given as 38. Her status is ‘wife’ so she is still married to Henry but he is not travelling with them. She is accompanied by Serena (12) and Frank (7).

It is possible that Henry stayed behind. The marriage record gives Henry’s employment as ‘singer’ and his father as Samuel Fieldhouse.

A Henry Fieldhouse whose employment was ‘stuff singer’ and whose father was called Samuel married a widow called Alice Ingham in Bradford on 17 August 1866. He declared himself a widower.

The Mormon record gives Zillah’s age as 37, so perhaps her birthday took place on the journey. It notes that the family have paid deposits of £3 2s (Zillah), £6 2s (Serena) and £3 12s (Frank).


Zillah’s journey to Utah

Once the ship had anchored in New York the emigrants faced a gruelling journey across land to Salt Lake City. The Mormon library contains several fascinating first-hand accounts of the Atlantic crossing and the trip to Utah. These reveal the route and the means of travel.

I have plotted the journey – well over 2,000 miles  – on the Google map below.

  • By steamboat to New Haven, Connecticut
  • By train to Montreal and thence on to Toronto
  • By train to Detroit
  • By train to Chicago
  • By train to Quincy, Illinois
  • By train to St Joseph, Missouri
  • By boat along the Missouri River to Wyoming, Nebraska
  • By wagon train to Salt Lake City




Here are some extracts from one account of the same journey by a fellow migrant, Caroline Hopkins Clark:

‘May 11–Dare say you have heard people say they could go to sleep without rocking, but we cannot go to sleep with rocking. We had plenty last night. Talk about a swinging boat, why bless your life, it is nothing compared to being rocked on the sea. We can hardly keep in bed. We had to get up and turn our heads where our feet should be or we could not stay in bed at all. The tins and boxes were rolling about. The slop-buckets upset. The sailor said it was as rough a night as they had ever seen, and it continued so all day…

May 23–Every few days they stove the vessel out, so we have to go upon deck. We find our dinner on top deck. We had meat pies, and jam tarts. We thought it Brother Green and some of the Birmingham boys had been with us it would of caused rare fun to see us gyspying  [sic] in the sun and to see the big fish trying to catch the little ones. We have had three births, but no deaths, Herbert, Frank and baby have the whooping cough. Mr. Cox is anxious to see land…

June 5–A beautiful fine day. The tug has just come to take us into New York. It is the grandest sight I ever witnessed: to see the things as we go up the river. We have just gone upon deck to pass the doctor. He never took any notice of any of us, so we passed first-rate. Frank and the baby are a little better…

June 9–We still are riding by rail. We went through British Canada. We also went through Toronto and Montreal. We were stopped on the road and searched by soldiers; thinking we wore firearms. We had to change trains at Montreal. Mr. Wheeler, the cab man, met with an accident. He had to have his foot taken off. We saw some beautiful waterfalls on the road. We saw a band of firemen at Montreal. Had just left when they began war. There is nothing scarce but wood. The houses are mostly built of wood. They look well. The people dress fine about here.

…June 14–Today’s journey is a sad one to us, on account of the death of our dear baby. It grieved us much. She died at the place where Mr. Cox was buried. John stayed behind to bury her. She died with the same complaint as my three other children. We then left Chicago, and proceeded by train to Quincy. We changed trains, and crossed the river.

…June 19–Arrived in Wyoming [Nebraska] very early in the morning. The heat is very oppressive. You should see the children, they are blistered with the sun. Little Frank’s arm is very bad. We can see something like sparks of fire. They are small insects. There are not many houses. The teams came to the river for our luggage and took it on to the grove.’

Extended extracts from the Autobiography of Brigham Henry Roberts, which also describe aspects of this epic journey in fascinating detail, are available online.

We know that Zillah, Serena and Frank completed the final stage as part of a group of 230 divided between 46 wagons, under the command of Captain Samuel Dennis White.

They departed from Wyoming on 10 July 1866, arriving at Salt Lake City on 5 September. An old lady and two young children died en route. One man disappeared from the company:

‘It was Robert Daybell, not Doble, who strayed from this train near Willow Springs, between the Platte and Sweetwater bridges. The company hunted for him two days and part of one night, but up to date he has not been heard from.’

Native Americans were suspected:

‘The train stopped over but the Indians were bad. They had burnt the stage station, horses and some telegraph poles. Captain White said we must go on, so the children and old people ride in the wagons.

Every man took his gun and walked on the right side of the wagons. I drove the team. The teamster had his gun ready to shoot if the signal was given. There were about fifty Indians. They would come almost to the train, make a circle with their horses, then get under the horses and point their arrows at us. That night when we camped the Indians came to the campfire. The Captain gave them bacon and other things. They smoked the pipe of peace. The next morning we went on our journey unmolested.’

Zillah’s name appears in the account books, made up to 31 December 1866. A total of $198.60 is due.

The photograph at the head of this post shows Salt Lake City as it was in the 1880s.


Zillah’s later life

At first I could find nothing to explain whether Zillah stayed in Utah or how long she survived there.

But then I discovered an entry in the 1870 census for Beaver, Utah (the site of a Mormon settlement some 200 miles south of Salt Lake City).


Zillah1870 census Capture


It is just possible to discern

‘John Halsall, age 63, tailor

Zillah Halsall, aged 42, keeps house

Serena Halsall, aged 17, keeps house

Frank Halsall, aged 12, at home’

I also found one family tree containing an unsubstantiated reference to a Mormon marriage between John Halsall and ‘Zellah Drakup’. This took place on 14 June 1869 in St George, Washington, Utah (another Mormon settlement).

John is thought to have been born in 1806 in Preston, Lancashire.

Zillah’s reversion to her maiden name confirms the likelihood that she and Henry Fieldhouse were separated.

It hints that she – if not the Mormon authorities – discounted her former marriage, perhaps because it was not a Mormon ceremony, even though the presence of her children testified that it once existed.

Other records suggest that John Halsall had remarried by 1878, though the 1880 census shows him living alone as a widower. Zillah probably died at some point in the mid-1870s. I could find no details of her burial.

An extended history of Beaver County is available online. It would have been an interesting place to live in at this time, just as silver was discovered nearby.

The Horn Silver Mine was established in 1875 and Frisco, now a ghost town, grew up alongside. At its peak Frisco had a population of 6,000, over 20 bars and numerous gambling dens and brothels.

One source recalls:

‘Murders were said to have been so frequent that city officials contracted to have a wagon pick up the bodies and take them to boot hill for burial.  Eventually, a lawman from Pioche, Nevada was hired and given free reign [sic] to “clean up the town.” When the tough marshal appeared on the scene, he allegedly told the town that he had no intentions of making arrests or building jail. Instead, the lawless element had two options – get out of town or get shot. Apparently, some of the wicked did not take the new marshal seriously as he reportedly killed six outlaws on his first night in town. After that, most of the lawless moved on and Frisco became a milder place for its citizens.’

Here is a picture of the milder side of Frisco.




Zillah’s children

Zillah’s daughter Serena married William Edward Harper (b. 1849 in Devon, England) in 1874 when she was 21. William was recorded as living in Beaver in the 1870 census.

The Harper family settled several hundred miles North-West, in Washington County Idaho. The 1880 census finds them living in Mans Creek, Washington. William is a farmer. There are three children: James (5), Edward Franklin (3) and Mary Zilla (newborn).

Serena’s brother Frank, now aged 22, is living with them and employed as a labourer.

The Washington County website provides some colourful historical context to rival that supplied for Beaver County above:

‘During the summer of 1880, nearly all the land in the fertile valley west of Weiser was settled by immigrants from other states. There was no water for irrigation and nothing but sagebrush greeted the eye. The people were all poor and believed they would prosper in time. In the fall and winter following their coming, numerous meetings were held. It was decided to form a corporation for the purpose of constructing the necessary works for diverting water from the Weiser River to these arid lands…

… With the arrival of the railroad, and its camp followers, (many of whom had followed the camps all the way from Granger), Weiser took on a sudden change, but not for the better. It was composed of a motley mob of tinhorn gamblers, pimps, burglars, pickpockets, prostitutes, and every variety of mankind that was low and despicable. Saloons flourished, and gambling was carried on in all of them, day and night. The coming of this new population resulted in commodity prices reaching an abnormal altitude. Grains of all kinds sold at four cents a pound and flour at $16.00 per barrel. Beef was more reasonable; there was an abundance of that commodity on the range, but the price was far above what it had been two or three years before.’

Another daughter Emma Isabelle was born in Weiser, Washington, Idaho on 18 August 1882.

But William died on 2 June 1883 at Old’s Ferry, Idaho. Frank had died only a week before, on May 26 1883. We do not know whether they succumbed to the same illness. Both husband and brother are buried in the Hillcrest Cemetery in Weiser.

Other records suggest that Serena remarried one Albert Clapp in Washington, Idaho in October 1887 at the age of 34. But this union must have been comparatively short-lived. A son Leroy was born in August 1888 however.

The 1900 census shows Serena as head of the family, using the surname Harper and still living in Weiser, with children Edward (23), Mary (20) and Emma (17), as well as Leroy (11). It correctly records that Serena has been in America since 1866.

By 1920 she is living with Mary who is a teacher in Portland, Oregon, but she died back in Payette County Idaho in November 1928 and is buried with her first husband in the Hillcrest Cemetery.


Final thoughts

Zillah Dracup might not have been the first of that surname to set foot in America, but her personal history is remarkable.

She appears almost forgotten on this side of the Atlantic, so I hope that this post will help to rectify her omission from most of our Dracup family trees.

Little did I dream when researching this post that I would find myself blazing a trail through the history of the Wild West!



April 2016

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